Crime & Justice

Police: No motive yet in Orange County shootings by student that left 4 dead, 3 hurt

Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

Police on Wednesday morning are still trying to determine the motive behind a shooting spree in Orange County that left four people dead, including the gunman. They are also working to identify the first victim – a woman in her twenties who was not related to Ali Syed, which police identified as the shooter.

Syed, a 20-year-old unemployed part-time college student, is believed to have killed a 69-year-old Laguna Woods man, a 26-year-old construction worker and the unidentified woman. At least two others were wounded. He has no criminal record.

RELATED: UPDATE: New details in Orange County shootings; 4 dead, 3 hurt by 20-year-old student (Map)

The hour-long rampage that spanned some 25 miles started at the home of Syed, who lived with his parents in an upscale area of Ladera Ranch.

They ran outside to call police in the predawn darkness after their son is believed to have fatally shot the woman, police said. By the time Orange County sheriff's deputies arrived, Syed was gone, in his parents' SUV.

From Ladera Ranch, the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire, police said. He pulled into a Denny’s parking lot next to a man waiting for his son to arrive for a school carpool. The man noticed Syed loading a shotgun and tried to get away, police said.

“And as he tried to escape, the suspect exited and started firing through the back window at the victim,” said Tustin Police Chief Scott Jordan. “He’s driving through the parking lot trying to get away, and the suspect is chasing him on foot taking shots at him.”

The victim is hospitalized, but the extent of his injuries was not disclosed.

Next, Syed ran across the street to a gas station and asked a driver for his keys. For some reason, Syed treated this victim very differently from his others.

“Mr. Syed, being very polite, said, 'I don’t want to hurt you,'” Jordan said. “He said, 'I killed somebody. Today’s my last day. Give me your keys.'”

The man handed over his keys, and Syed drove to the 55 Freeway, where he got out of the pickup and started firing at southbound traffic, police said.

One passing motorist was injured, and at least two other vehicles were hit. The driver was struck in the mouth and hand. He didn't have a cell phone, but was able to drive home and call police.

Syed then sped off the freeway in Santa Ana and crashed into a curb.

He walked up to another person, 69 year-old Melvin Edwards of Laguna Woods, who was waiting at a stop sign in his BMW on his way to work.

At least six bystanders were watching as Syed got out of the damaged pickup. 

“He quickly gets out, approaching the victim with the shotgun in hand, has him exit the car, and walks him across the street and executes him,” Jordan said.

Syed then drove back to Tustin, where he is believed to have fatally shot a 26-year-old construction worker, Jeremy Lewis of Fullerton.

Syed is also accused of shooting one of Lewis’ co-workers in the arm and stealing his utility truck.

Syed got back on the 55 freeway and exited in Orange.

Chief Jordan said officers from at least three different agencies were pursuing Syed, but before they could get close, he got out of his slowly moving truck.

“Almost instantly as he exited the vehicle, he took a shotgun, put it to his head and killed himself,” Jordan said.

A shotgun was recovered at the scene and is believed to be the only weapon used.